It was a scorchingly hot August bank holiday weekend and thousands of splendidly dressed ladies and gentlemen descended on the streets of Lincoln. It was the annual Asylum Steampunk festival – the largest event of its kind in the world.
This year I decided to take part as well and dressed up in steampunk attire including a black shirt with leather on the shoulders, a leather mask, and goggles.
There were lots of events going on from Thursday to Monday at a number of different venues in Lincoln. Some of these events were free to the general public and some you need to buy a wristband or other ticket to attend.
I bought a wristband this year and also bought tickets to some evening events. I will tell you more about these later on in the post.
But first, some of you may be wondering…
What is steampunk?
Steampunk can be described as science-fiction as the Victorians would have imagined it. So think of advanced technology but powered by steam. It can be anything you can dream up but there are a few tenets of steampunk that seem to be quite common.
These include the use of brass, waistcoats, goggles, top hats, airships, corsets, and marvellous dresses for the ladies.
Steampunk is inspired by the works of writers like Jules Verne and HG Wells but people usually expand on these themes and add their own twists.
Steampunk is basically a Victorian canvas on which you can let your imagination run wild.
My Weekend at the Asylum
The first events I attended at the Asylum were on the Friday at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) in Lincoln, or “Steampunk Campus” as it was known this weekend.
After arriving and finding a suitable parking space, I picked up a weekend wristband for me and my PA from event control which was located on the campus.
Now, a brief word about carer’s tickets.
I had asked the organisers whether free carer’s tickets were available for the festival but they told me that they couldn’t offer free carer’s tickets because they were a not-for-profit group. Plus there were more people that wanted to go then they could accommodate.
Initially, I didn’t know whether to feel aggrieved at the fact that they weren’t offering free carer’s tickets. But then I thought that because they are a not-for-profit group I thought it was okay. If they were making a profit then I would probably have kicked up more of a stink. But the festival is all run by volunteers and I wouldn’t want them to lose money because of me.
They did, however, say they would upgrade a Saturday ticket for my PA to a full weekend wristband, so I saved a bit of money there.
Anyway, after we picked up the wristbands I had a look around the “Great Exhibition.” There were lots of stalls selling steampunk related items ranging from jewellery to amazing little handmade machines. There were all sorts of interesting bits and pieces to complete the steampunk outfit.
After this, I went to a talk given by the festival director who explained how the festival came about and what it means to be a steampunk.
I wish I could give you a detailed account of what the talk consisted of but I’m afraid I can’t because I only understood about 30% of it due to my hearing loss. But it seemed entertaining for the people that could hear it.
After lunch which consisted of a sandwich whilst sheltering in the shade underneath a big tree in the grounds of BGU, I tried out some tabletop role-play gaming.
My PA and I joined two other people in playing a steampunk-themed role-playing game that involved drilling down into the centre of the earth and coming across some weird and wonderful characters along the way. You adopt the role of a character and determine the results of actions by rolling a couple of dice.
This was just a taster session so it only went on for about 10 or 15 minutes but it was quite fun.
On Saturday more festivities started in and around the grounds of Lincoln Castle. There were still lots of stuff happening at BGU but also around the castle area.
We parked our car in the car park at BGU’s and we took one of the shuttle buses that were regularly going back and forth between BG you and the castle area.
Vintage buses, provided by Lincoln transport Museum, were transporting people back and forth but these weren’t accessible as they were old. Wheelchair access wasn’t a major concern back in their days.
Thankfully they also had more modern buses doing the rounds which were accessible.
Around the castle area there was a plethora of fabulously dressed steampunk’s roaming the pretty cobbled Victorian streets of uphill Lincoln.
A steampunk market was taking place in Castle Square but I didn’t get a close look at the stalls as it was very busy and I didn’t want to hang around in the hot sunshine too long. It was about 30°C that day and I was wearing all black (not a good idea in hindsight).
Inside the castle grounds there were more steampunk stalls and food was available.
I saw a few fun events which included the “Wacky Racers”. This was a race involving weird and wonderful steampunk contraptions that could be propelled by human power.
The course was the paved roadway running through the castle grounds up to the “banjo” in front of the courthouse and back down again.
My favourite was a small car that was only just big enough for a man to lie down inside of it, and he could move it somehow, possibly by pedals.
After this there was the Paralympic wacky racers for those with mobility problems. There were a good number of steam wheelers and those on mobility scooters taking part. I didn’t take part in it because my chair wasn’t steampunked up like the others.
I spent most of the time wandering around admiring everyone’s outfits, and asking for photos with them.
On Sunday I stayed at home most of the day because it was 30°C again and I didn’t fancy wandering around in the scorching sunlight wearing a black shirt and trousers. I also wanted to watch England playing cricket. It was the day that Ben Stokes performed a miracle to almost single-handedly win England the match in the Ashes series against Australia.
But anyway, back to the steampunk.
That evening I went to a couple of ticketed steampunk events.
The first one was an evening of burlesque at The Venue on BGU campus. It was very enjoyable with a group of scantily clad ladies performing risqué dances. The most impressive performance was by a lady called Scarlett Butterfly who swung around on a metal pole with a hoop on the top.
I regret to inform you that there are no photos of the burlesque as photography would have been frowned upon. I will leave it to your imagination instead.
After the burlesque ended I went over to the Engine Shed for the “Time Travellers Party”. Inside the engine shed it was very hot with everyone’s body heat amplified by the hot weather. There were 2 bands on that evening. First up was Victor and The Bully who are a steampunk themed band who play a mixture of ukulele and acoustic guitar with a backing orchestra. They were very entertaining and they even did a version of the hokey Cokey which got everyone in the audience dancing. It’s silly but it was fun!
The second band was V2A who are a post-apocalyptic themed band, very mad Max-esque, who played heavy rock.
I enjoyed both bands but it was so hot in the room. In fact a lady fainted at one point from overheating right in front of the stage, and the band immediately stopped playing while she was attended to. Apparently she was okay though.
That was the last event I went to at this year steampunk festival although events were continuing right until Monday night.
Next year I think I might just go for one day rather than the whole weekend as it will allow me to go to lost Village festival which is on the same weekend. I didn’t go this year to lost Village but I kind of missed it, especially as the weather was so good.